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Spring is officially upon us, and although there’s still time to squeeze in some skiing, the running trails are starting to beckon, too. Lace up the sneaks and get back into form with these spring races in happening cities. Bring a buddy and make a weekend out of it, before temperatures soar and summer travel season kicks into high gear. Here are three winning options:
The City: Cincinnati
The Race: The Flying Pig, May 2
Pardon the pig metaphors, but you’re sure to squeal with delight over this race, which offers 5K, 10K and full marathon distances. Cincinnati goes hog wild for the event, with volunteers – called grunts – at every few feet of the course, which features panoramic views of the city. (And if that’s not enough motivation, there are 50 entertainment acts.) At the “finish swine” a mascot greets runners, all of whom get a double-sided flying pig medal.
Training Tip: Not quite brave enough to do a practice run with pig ears? Purchase other pig paraphernalia at the Flying Pig Store.
Travel Tip: The race website offers several online-only discounts until April 2.
The City: Atlanta
The Race: Granite Grinder, April 17
Affordable entry fees, a challenging trail course, free beer, pizza and live music, and a technical race shirt? If only all races boasted as many goodies as the Grinder, which offers both 5K and half-marathon distances. You’ll certainly earn your swag in the latter, with a hilly route that winds through scenic wooded areas and over thick slabs of granite. The race is held at a horse park about a 25-minute drive from downtown Atlanta, where hotel deals abound on weekends.
Training Tip: Sturdy sneakers or even trail shoes are recommended.
Travel Tip: While you’re in town, check out the Dogwood Festival, which is held at Piedmont Park and unofficially marks the start of spring in Atlanta.
The City: Boulder, Colorado
The Race: BolderBOULDER, May 31
This 10K was voted the best in America by Runner’s World in December 2009, and it’s not hard to see why: It’s got rich tradition, a breathtaking course and a stadium finish. The 50,000 runners start in waves and end up at the University of Colorado’s Folsom Stadium. Another winning touch? Elite runners finish last, so everybody can watch them battle it out for the trophies.
Training Tip: If you’re not used to running at altitude, prepare to huff and puff more than normal on race day.
Travel Tip: Arrive a day or two early to acclimate if you can; some local hotels offer discounts to runners.